Historic aircraft, veterans on hand to mark RCAF’s 100th anniversary in Langley

Click to play video: 'Royal Canadian Air Force celebrates 100 years'
Royal Canadian Air Force celebrates 100 years
WATCH: The Royal Canadian Air Force is celebrating 100 years. Kylie Stanton has more. – Apr 1, 2024

Dozens of historic aircraft were on display Monday, as the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, B.C., marked the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Visitors had the chance to view engine startups and get hands-on with planes ranging from Second World War bombers to Cold War nuclear-armed jets to the Snowbirds stunt planes.

Click to play video: 'Celebrating 100 years of the Royal Canadian Air Force with Chris Hadfield'
Celebrating 100 years of the Royal Canadian Air Force with Chris Hadfield

“The people that seem to enjoy our museum most are the young people,” Canadian Museum of Flight Association president Bruce Friesen told Global News.

Story continues below advertisement

“They come in excited and they leave even more excited because they’ve been inspired by these beautiful airframes.”

The RCAF was officially established on April 1, 1924, with 62 officers and 262 non-commissioned members, two years after various Canadian military branches were consolidated into a single defence ministry.

In its early years, the force played a critical role in helping survey Canada from the air, retired RCAF pilot and Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame member George Miller explained.

“It was really the airplane that opened up our country,” he said. “Mapping, surveying, exploration — every possible mission that could be done to open up Canada.”

Miller, who served at one point as the leader of the Snowbirds, was deployed to Germany at age 19, where he became one of the youngest Canadian pilots to serve overseas during the Cold War.

There, he flew the CF-104 Starfighter, a nuclear-armed supersonic jet that formed part of the RCAF’s contribution to NATO.

Standing in front of a decommissioned Starfighter, Miller told Global News the aircraft was among his favourites to fly.

Click to play video: 'Canada’s air force to aquire 11 remote piloted aircrafts, modern military equipment through $2.49B federal funding'
Canada’s air force to aquire 11 remote piloted aircrafts, modern military equipment through $2.49B federal funding

“It was the fastest, best nuclear delivery aircraft that was possible. It was so fast and we had so many of them, all made in Canada,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“I loved it. It was twice the speed of sound, it could deliver so rapidly. So there was no question it made a difference in nuclear detente.”

Retired pilot Allen French also flew the Starfighter, serving as a nuclear bomb commander at age 21.

Service in the Air Force, he said, led to a lifetime love of aviation and a 33-year career as a civilian pilot with Canadian Pacific Airlines.

“I flew everything. I started off in DC8s and ended up as a captain on a Boeing 767.”

“It provided me with adventures and a livelihood and travel and to work with great people and go all over the world.”

Monday’s event included an Air Cadet colour ceremony, period costumes and a special reception for RCAF veterans.

The Langley museum has been open to the public since 1996 and provides tours and education aimed at preserving Canadian aviation history.

Click to play video: 'B.C. war veteran celebrates 100th birthday with RCAF Cormorant fly-over'
B.C. war veteran celebrates 100th birthday with RCAF Cormorant fly-over

Sponsored content